Chimeric Pancreas Treats Diabetes in Mice

Researchers produce functional organs composed of both mouse and rat cells.

Jan 26, 2017
Tracy Vence

WIKIMEDIA, JAKOB SUCKALEBy injecting murine pluripotent stem cells into specialized rat blastocysts, scientists at the University of Toyko generated a functional mouse-rat chimeric pancreas, according to a study published this week (January 25) in Nature. Transplanted into a mouse that had been engineered to model diabetes, the chimeric pancreas maintained the rodent’s blood-glucose levels for more than a year.  “This is the first time this kind of inter-species organ generation has successfully treated a medical condition,” New Scientist reported.

“There are not that many ways to generate a functional adult human organ for transplantation that can save many people’s lives,” Qiao Zhou of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute who was not involved in the study told The Verge. “This is one I think actually I can see work in the future.”

While researchers have their sights set on generating other chimeric organs, ethical challenges remain. “The biological issues and the ethical issues are still in very preliminary phase,” Timo Otonkoski of the University of Helsinki in Finland told The Verge. “It’s still very hard to know if this has any real potential for human medicine. But it’s interesting biology and it’s interesting to explore whether these possibilities are real or not.”